PLANS to build hundreds of more homes in Fordingbridge have once again sparked opposition from councillors and also local residents.

An extraordinary planning meeting was held by Fordingbridge Town Council’s planning committee on Monday to discuss plans for a housing development on land to the west of Whitsbury Road, which was attended by a number of members of the public who filled the town hall.

Read more: Extraordinary meeting to be held over plans for 365 new homes

The application

The outline application is for a residential development and change of use of land to Alternative Natural Recreational Greenspace (ANRG) and other on-site infrastructure.

It has been put forward by Pennyfarthing Homes. Previously around 400 homes had been proposed for the site but the number of homes is expected to be 365.

As part of the plans a new roundabout on Whitsbury Road would be created and a bridge across Sweatfords Water as well as crossings for pedestrians and cyclists.

What the town council voted

Councillors voted unanimously to recommend that the plans be refused by New Forest District Council who will determine whether the application is given planning permission.

Cllr Edward Hale said: “There are lots of documents missing and we can’t possibly make a decision without the developers addressing those issues. But also because of the environmental issues that speakers this evening have identified.”

Concerns raised

Concerns highlighted during the meeting included the ecological and environmental impact on the area, flooding, loss of green space as well as the wider impact of this proposal and other developments put forward in the town.

The site is part of Strategic Site 17, which has been allocated for development in New Forest District Council’s Local Plan with an estimated minimum capacity of 330 homes.

A smaller development for 64 homes is being planned at Tinkers Cross, which is the subject of a separate planning application by Pennyfarthing Homes.

The Whitsbury Road application has already sparked concerns over the impact on traffic and infrastructure as well as the impact on schools and health services.

Another resident urged the council to reject the application as it will "negatively impact the ecology and environment" of the area and its importance for the mental wellbeing of the community.

She said: "What we are experiencing in Fordingbridge with these developments is happening across the country it is a national problem.

"Communities up and down the land are having these developments foisted upon them with little or no connection to the impact that might have on the people and environment.

"We know that we need housing but we really do need to have the right housing in the right place."

The need to protect the habitats and diversity of the wildlife was also highlighted. 

"People need to connect with nature for their own mental wellbeing and I don't mean the little scraps of land that have been given over when a development is built.

"Yes, they're fine for a dog walk or a bit of fresh air but it is not the same as when you walk on those meadows on a warm afternoon and it's alive with buttercups, wildflowers, insects, butterfly and the hum of thousands of crickets.

"Then you look up into the sky and see the kites and the buzards and swifts. It really is a magical spot there and I would be really sad to see us lose that magical spot".

Cllr Anna Wilson also raised concerns about the biodiversity net gain provision as well as the impact of surplus groundwater going into Sweatfords Waters which can't handle the water going into it now.

Concerns over potential flooding were echoed by Cllr Alan Lewendon who feared there could be flooding in the town centre. 

Cllr Diane Paton also raised concerns over biodiversity net gain and said there would be a loss of land already been given to put in the roundabout and access road.

Questions over housing need

One member of the public, who objected to these plans and other developments proposed for the town, felt the housing proposed for Fordingbridge in New Forest District Council's local plan was “completely disproportionate”.

She also questioned if the housing was addressing the local need in Fordingbridge and what impact new housing built, if not zero energy, would have on the climate emergency.

During the meeting further concerns were raised regarding the environmental impact on lighting and also wildlife including species of bats in the area.

Density of housing and roundabout plans

According to the plans the proposed distribution of the densities across the site has also been revised, with the area of higher density in the centre of the site reduced and the lower density area in the west and south west increased.

This, the application documents say, has led to a corresponding reduction in the potential number of dwellings to be accommodated on the site.

Access to the site would be via a new roundabout onto Whitsbury Road.

Planning documents state that alternatives including a crossroads and traffic signal controlled junction have been considered but would be “less appropriate” from an “operational or safety perspective.

It has been, the documents state, "designed to be as small as possible to accommodate vehicles (including buses), pedestrians and cyclists".

Cllr Paul Anstey said a highway report dated May 22 stated it had been unable to provide comment at this stage and there had been no further update since, which he said was one of the key issues for the town in relation to the application.

The ANRG areas have also been revised to exclude the sites of importance for nature conservation (SINC) to the north of the woodland adjacent to Sweatfords Water and part of the woodland.

Additional children’s play areas are proposed in the centre of the site and formal crossing points over the access road will also be included in two places to ensure the road is “easy to cross and allow continuation of the two sections of ANRG either side of the road”.

When the application was discussed earlier in the year by Fordingbridge Town Council concerns were raised over the new roundabout and access road. 

Visit New Forest District Council’s website and use application reference 21/10052.